The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buddha puts erosion control onus on Centre

Calcutta, Jan. 19: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will take up the issue of river bank erosion in the state with the Centre during his next visit to New Delhi on February 8.

The level of erosion has reached an alarming stage and the Centre must take steps immediately to avert a major calamity, Bhattacharjee said today.

He was speaking at a convention, River Erosion, Problems and Solution, organised by the Left Front here.

“It is an international problem and the Centre must take steps to solve it. Calamity will strike if measures are not taken,” he said.

He alleged that despite repeated pleas from the state, the Centre has taken no action to address the problem. The Ganga is moving towards Malda and the town is facing grave danger, the chief minister said.

“Crops and houses are being destroyed. The geographical border between Malda and Bihar has been erased by continuing erosion,” he added.

Bhattacharjee said in Murshidabad, houses and schools are in danger and even the station there has been hit.

“In Fajilpur, the gap between the Ganga and the Padma is minimum. If the two rivers merge, the water will wash away the Calcutta port,” the chief minister said.

Bhattacharjee added that the planning of the Farakka barrage was faulty and it was at the root of the problem. “For the past 26 years we have been writing to the Centre and raising the issue inside Parliament but nothing has been done.”

The Centre has disbursed Rs 12 crore for prevention of erosion against the estimated cost of Rs 927 crore drawn up by the Keskar committee.

“A large-scale movement must emanate from within the state against the Central government. Our demand is justified,” Bhattacharjee said.

CPM MP Somnath Chatterjee echoed the chief minister in blaming the Centre for the crisis. “The Centre spends lakhs of crores in its budget, but it has disbursed only Rs 12 crore for the prevention of river bank erosion,” said Chatterjee. “If required, we will organise rallies in Delhi to press for our demands.”

He added: “It is unfortunate that even for just demands, movements had to be launched.”

Though the Central ministers — even the Prime Minister — agree that erosion is a grave problem, no one is taking steps to stop it, the veteran CPM parliamentarian said.

Front chairman Biman Bose said movements against the Centre’s inaction should have been launched much earlier.

Irrigation minister Amal Roy said it was not possible for the state to fight river bank erosion on its own.

“In Malda, we have built eight marginal embankments to save the town, now we need a ninth one,” he said. The problem is equally grave in south Bengal, he added.

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